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Exploring the Theme: Why GIS is the Foundation for Asset Management

An Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) program is not a one-off project. It takes time and commitment from all levels of your organization. The key is to get started and begin realizing the benefits. Find out how location is helping asset managers design and implement their asset management programs intelligently and effectively.

“Data is important; however, not as important as the answers it provides or the stories that it tells.”​

 – Art Haddad, CTO, Location Analytics, Esri

Over the past few decades, access to data has revolutionized asset management. Data provides context to assets; it informs analytics and drives decision-making – both are essential aspects of asset management. Before we discuss asset management in detail, let’s define assets in the context of this article. 

What is an Asset?

According to the ISO 55000, the international standard for asset management, an asset is an item, thing or entity that has potential or actual value to an organization. All physical assets age with each passing moment. If we look around us, we find assets of all sorts – public assets such as roads, bridges or hydrants, enterprise assets such as buildings and equipment; digital assets; and intangible assets such as goodwill, health and so on. The value of certain assets such as roads or bridges depreciates over time, especially if they are not managed well. On the other hand, the value of assets such as trees or monuments that are well-maintained appreciates over time.

The Integrating Nature of Location

Data helps us determine how best to manage an asset: its whole lifecycle costs, risk to the organization if it cannot perform its function, or how long it will remain a viable asset. Information about assets is critical to the success of an asset management program.

To maximize the use and accuracy of this data it is essential to centralize it.  Using location, you can centralize asset information into a single authoritative database.  Everything is somewhere, which makes location the common denominator, and a geographic information system a natural choice for an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) System.

Effective Lifecycle Management of Assets

An Enterprise Asset Management System is defined as “the systematic and coordinated activities and practices of an organization to optimally and sustainably deliver on its objectives through cost-effective lifecycle management of assets.”  (IIMM, 2011)

For some organizations, the thought of starting a Corporate Asset Management Program (CAMP) is daunting. They know very well that asset management is more than just buying a piece of software; it’s about setting up systems (people, data, processes, software, hardware, etc.) with the purpose of delivering the level of services expected by your customers. It involves a lot of planning – from who is responsible for what, how is it managed, and how is it accounted for.  The organization’s CAMP is defined and governed by a comprehensive Asset Management Strategy driven by a clear and concise Asset Management Policy.  A clearly defined strategy will improve the repeatability, quality and structure of the program and will provide corporate guidance and direction to the development of business unit’s asset management plans.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in and what types of assets you work with, you will save time and money by managing your assets intelligently which will enable you to deliver maximum value to your organization and the people you serve. With an EAM program, decisions become more defensible when setting priorities or requesting additional funds to maintain defined levels of service.

If you are at the beginning of the process, you might be wondering how to start. Creating an Organizational Strategic Plan, Asset Management Policy, Asset Management Strategy, and Asset Management Plans are the first steps to establishing a systematic approach for effective lifecycle management of your assets. It will help you assess where your organization is on the asset management spectrum: from just getting started, to developing a plan, to an all-inclusive enterprise methodology.

When you decide to launch an asset management program, it’s helpful to know these two most important questions: What do you have? And, what are you doing about it? If you’ve nailed down the answers to these questions, it’s relatively easy to follow this seven-step approach that Esri recommends in its guide to using GIS in Enterprise Asset Management.

To help visualize the path to full EAM, experts recommend five stages, set in sequence. Following a well-structured asset management plan, each stage will move you along from Basic to Enterprise. The sooner you move away from raw memory and paper, the faster you will realize the benefits of asset management.

ISO 55001 Maturity Scale

When creating an AM plan, it’s also important to note what to include and plan for. An EAM system is made up of three core components, which can be described as:

  1. A System of Record – your repository of authoritative data
  2. A System of Engagement – sharing and interacting with the data internally and externally
  3. A System of Insight – facilitating actionable decisions

A System of Record lays the foundation for your CAMP. It provides a centralized governance structure that delivers efficiencies, and builds confidence and trust in your data.

A System of Engagement is about sharing and interacting with the data internally and externally. It should reflect your organization’s structure and help you achieve your goals through well-defined collaboration workflows. 

A System of Engagement complements an organization’s investment in a system of record. It provides easy access to data and apps that enable collaboration.

A System of Insight provides exploratory spatial, tabular, and charting/dashboarding analysis that can reveal new relationships, patterns and trends in data. As skilled as we are with spreadsheets, it is difficult to look at a table with 20 fields and 250,000 rows and really understand what’s going on in the dataset. What happens when that becomes 2.5M rows?  The visual depiction of our data and what it means can be powerfully communicated through maps, apps, charts and dashboards.

A System of Insight can provide answers such as:

  • How does the age of a housing development relate to the number of leaks?
  • Where and what is the number of supply interruptions > 4 hours?
  • Are service centres located where they best meet the needs of our customers? 
  • Where should I focus my conservation efforts to minimize my organization’s carbon footprint?
  • What is the percentage of high criticality assets with optimized maintenance plans?

A Powerful Asset Management Platform

ArcGIS is a powerful asset management platform with cloud and on-premise solutions and apps to deliver the requirements of a program. It empowers users to collect, manage and visualize the attributes of assets – saving time and money – and maximizing their service life. It helps AM teams complete an asset inventory, determine and measure levels of service, define roles and responsibilities, identify and calculate risk as well as extrapolate a forecast of asset renewal costs.

There are many moving parts to an Enterprise Asset Management program that require collaboration at different levels. And it helps to get expert advice on creating your program and making it operational. Regardless of the stage you’re in – whether you’re just beginning to plan for an ArcGIS framework, or an advanced user looking to adopt solutions for maintenance management and permitting – Esri Canada provides many flexible consulting and training options.

For instance, Esri Canada worked with the City of Hamilton to develop a program for their sidewalk inspections. Our consultants helped them set up goals such as improve the quality of inspection results and inspection cycle scheduling, as well as reduce the overall timeline from inspection to follow up repair. This helped the City with record-keeping for Ontario’s Minimum Maintenance Standards and reduced their risks from trip-and-fall lawsuits.

An EAM program is not a one-off project. It takes time and commitment from all levels of your organization. The key is to get started and begin realizing the benefits.

Find out more about how Esri Canada can support you in your asset management initiatives at

Authored by Esri Canada’s Rob Santos, Director, Public Works Solutions; and Barry Kelly, Industry Manager, Public Works Solutions

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of ArcNorth News.